Week 5: A Bleak Future, Eve.

Post: “When human beings lose their capacity to imagine better futures, Torpey writes, ‘the past rushes to fill the vacuum'” (Harris, 8).

I found this week’s readings a bit depressing. Along with a discussion of the historic use of slavery (should I even say it’s historic?) of slavery in the formation of America’s most prestigious universities, Bousquet’s piece is dedicated to the modern-day function of the university– which he parallels to health care, and I’m extending to medicine in general. Modern-day medicine isn’t what it used to be. My parents are both Pediatricians, and my grandfather was one too, and every component of medicine is different than in their day (the “days of the giants” to which it’s referred). The reason people go into medicine is different. The way to get into medical school is different. Medical school, residency, fellowships themselves, all different. The motivation used to be slightly more altruistic and less external– I realized I can’t make that general a statement. Being a doctor was always seen as a noble profession. Medicine has become tied up with immigration, especially for jews. To be a Doctor was to be economically and morally successful. But the motivation now is now purely financial and a type of prestige-hunger that I frankly associate with startup/and tech bros. Being a doctor ensures a stable 9-6, a lot of money, and caché. This pains my parents, who were trained under 48-hour shifts as residents, whose profession extended beyond the workday, and who say medicine as an art (Socrates defines medicine as such). Today, we have a deficit of primary care physicians, because it makes the least amount of money and a deficit of well-trained physicians in rural areas. I have an acquaintance from Kenyon who applied to a specialty program at Columbia in conjunction with a health-care facility in Cooperstown, NY (home of the Baseball Hall of Fame). She wants to be a surgeon, but to increase her chances of going to an ivy league medical school, she applied to the more niche program. She completed research in health care in rural areas before– she gamed the system to her advantage and will end up making the program look bad when she goes off to do neurosurgery so she can fulfill her Grey’s Anatomy dreams and make a 7-figure salary. Medicine has become about profit over people. Efficiency over empathy. Corporations over compassion.

Where this comparison ends though is that doctors still attain the same prestige in quality of life. They used to make a lot of money, and now they make more. Academics on the other hand have been forced to take jobs incommensurable with their educations. Someone who has completed a doctorate shouldn’t be sleeping in their car or working three jobs. This makes it sound like I’m saying poverty is justified for the lesser-educated. No one should be sleeping in their cars (if they’re fortunate enough to even have a car), and working more than one full-time job to make ends meet. But, if you go to school to study something intensely, should that not translate into a profession? Isn’t that what medical school and law school are for? The difference with academia is the subjects may be merely theoretical (Modernist Literature, Analytical Philosophy), but to know a subject to the extent you can teach it at an undergraduate or graduate-level means you’re highly skilled. One of the ironies of the academy is the inability of younger academics to excel, or get a job at all, is due to the older generation holding on to their posts for dear life. The older academics in reputable institutions exist as if it’s still “the age of the giants.” As if medicine were still about people or teaching were still about teaching (in part this “publish or perish” mentality doesn’t affect them– they’re already tenured). Nothing is about what it used to be about. Medicine is no longer about medicine. Teaching is no longer about the subject at hand. Everything is political and nothing is pure. It seems to be one of the biggest risks you can take right now is trying to become a professor. We don’t value education in America, but we especially don’t value post-secondary education– we pretend to via US News World and Reports, but then we have Stanford-educated professors living on the streets? Actually, I shouldn’t have clarified that they’re Stanford-educated. The point is that they’re people with a skill, but they happen to be employed in a world where the profitization and commodification of their skill directly hurt them.


  1. What barriers exist for you in our class right now?:
    1. Currently, getting my post in the day before class. While I always strive to do this, I work full-time in addition to going to CUNY (not that I’m the only one!!), and sometimes time eludes me. I am trying to scope out a time on Sundays to write my reflections. 
  2. What *all* do you envision us being capable of, together, in this class going forward in the semester?:
    1. Defining some of the terms we use– like meritocracy and the descriptors in the course title– equity and elitism. We toy with a lot of ideas, it would be nice to come to some formulated opinion and or conclusion about one of them– i.e.: what is the purpose of higher ed.? What is a degree for besides job preparation? 
  3. What course content questions do you have so far (i.e., questions about the readings)?:
    1. Nothing positively pressing right now– I’m curious to hear more about multicultural White supremacy that Sam mentioned in her response last week (class no. 4).
  4. What course process questions do you have so far?: I’m interested in how we’ll be graded at the end of the term.